Tale as old as time

In the summer of 2007, I was planning to audition for Fort Bend's production of The Sound of Music, when Joe White called me to ask me to audition for The Music Man at the Country Playhouse. That turned out to be quite an adventure.

Some people I'd done Fiddler with at Fort Bend came to the show, and mentioned that Fort Bend would be doing Beauty and the Beast in the spring. After listening to the soundtrack, I decided I wanted that to be my next show.

When auditions came around, I started cajoling Joe to come audition. We were a natural pair for the bickering Lumière and Cogsworth. He finally relented.

Then we didn't hear back. And we didn't hear back. A week of rehearsals went by, and we didn't know whether we'd been cast at all. It turns out that all of Tarra's emails offering roles to people had failed to go through. They didn't bounce, they just disappeared. So she thought she was waiting on replies from everyone, while we all thought we weren't being offered roles.

Joe and I were Cogsworth and Lumière, but the Beast and Gaston had not yet been cast, and we were, respectively, the ones who would play those roles if she couldn't find anyone more suitable. That would have been fun, too, but clearly not as good a fit. After beating the bushes for a while, Tarra was able to fill those roles.

Once we were past that hurdle, things went pretty smoothly, except that I never got a chance to learn my choreography. Choreography rehearsals focused on the chorus, which had several big numbers to do. That worried me greatly, because choreography is like learning a foreign language to me. But eventually Angela and I had our choreography rehearsal, and it wasn't bad: the only thing I really, really had to do right was the tango. Everything else was pretty free-form. Which is good, because it all kept changing.

Other trivia: I took the advertising flier Tarra made for the show and made a few customized versions for myself and others in the cast. That's also where I got the logo to put on the cast photo favors.

And here's another cute anecdote.

The cast

Disclaimer: I probably got some facts wrong.

Julio Arriola as The Beast
This was Julio's first acting experience. Talk about being thrown in the deep end! He's no stranger to performing, as a worship leader at Sugar Creek Baptist Church, but until now, it's mostly been singing (which he is great at). Add to that the fact that English is not his mother tongue, and you've got a pretty high degree of difficulty.
Amber Ward as Belle
Amber is a homegrown talent who has been showing it off in New York, lately, in the off-Broadway musical version of It's A Wonderful Life. She has the total package: a beautiful voice, great acting, strong dance, beauty and charm. If she has a weakness, it may be failing to read labels.
Casey Nonmacher as Gaston
Casey strikes me the way I seem to strike a lot of people: mostly quiet, but tossing out unexpected one-liners that let you know there's more going on there than you immediately see. The sort of person people say "I wouldn't have thought you'd be in theater" about. He also happens to be Tarra's brother.
Bryan Kaplun as LeFou
Bryan is a theater student at U of H. He's great with the physical comedy and he does magic tricks. Since Lumière has no scenes with Gaston and LeFou, most of my interaction with him was trading puns backstage.
Angela Marie Harger as Babette
As Lumière's love interest, I spent a lot of time working with Angela. She shares my penchant for doing things over and over again to make sure they're right. (Although with all the last-minute changes, that was hard to do.) She has a strong stage presence and picks up choreography easily, which I find baffling. She aspires to be in film, although I think she may have a future as a cartoonist.
Joe Carl Patrick Spontaneous White as Cogsworth
Joe has been my friend since Rice, and I credit him with getting me into theater (by calling me for 2003's Princess Ida). His interest has moved into directing, but I am glad I was able to talk him into doing this show. We couldn't have asked for a better Cogsworth, and he's a master of covering mistakes, which saved my bacon when I missed an entrance in the final performance.
Cheryl Baucum as Mrs. Potts
Cheryl is another trained actress, and it shows. I was impressed with how she transformed from modern mom into the matronly British teapot.
Larry Ransberger as Maurice
Larry played Tevye when we did Fiddler in 2006, so I've seen him play everything from a befuddled Jewish father with five daughters to a befuddled French father with one daughter. I can't wait to see how many daughters he has next!
Audrey Spitz as Chip
Cutest kid ever. Also rock-solid on her part. Very professional, but also bursting with joy.
Michelle Juliana as Silly Girl #1
I was in Pardon My English with Michelle (and Joe), and I just love her. Great singer, great person to hang out and talk with. It was a nice surprise to see her at auditions. Lumière doesn't have any scenes with the Silly Girls, but I enjoyed being in a show with Michelle again.
Becky-Lou Ruiz as The Wardrobe
The character has a name (Madame something-or-other), but is mostly called the wardrobe. Becky-Lou played her with a big dose of Jo Anne Worley, which is fitting, since that's who did the voice of the Wardrobe in the cartoons. Becky-Lou is a live wire, another really "theatery" person with a great big voice. And she helpfully brought her two daughters to be in the chorus.

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